October 2009

F-27 Corsair Trimaran

This spring we added another boat to our family. Though having made several long passages on other people's boats since coming to Georgia, we had not sailed Atom on a voyage in recent years and have none planned for the near future. My idea was to take a couple months sailing vacations this year and next year, sailing close to home in the Great Lakes and Bahamas. Mei had never sailed on the lakes and sailing Atom up the east coast and through the waterways wasn't practical for a one or two month vacation. Though we could sail Atom again to the Bahamas, we wanted to try something different next time.

I wanted a second boat that could be stored in our backyard and trailered to Michigan for a one month vacation. Since we were getting a second boat I wanted to experiment with a boat that is very unlike what I've sailed before. Atom is a safe and comfortable boat for voyaging offshore, but the trade-off is that she is heavy and not easily trailerable, has 4.5-foot loaded draft that restricts her from many shallow waters and anchorages, and like all monohulls, she heels and rolls under sail and can be uncomfortable in a rolly anchorage. This new boat needed to be just big enough to live aboard yet small and lightweight for easy trailering and launching. I wanted shallow draft and a boat that heeled little and rolled even less. Speed wasn't so important, but since all my requirements pointed towards a folding trimaran, the excitement of sailing at 10-20 knots was a bonus.


Sailing on the Great Lakes 2009

Though the Corsair folding trimarans are mainly considered expensive racing boats, an early 1990's F-27 seemed the best compromise of price, size, performance and comfort for converting into a trailer cruiser. I found one near Boston and drove up to bring her home with our F250 pickup. She initially cost $38,000. By the time I had upgraded her with new outboard motor, new electrical system, plumbing and numerous other minor modifications I had invested another $4,000. Mei pointed out in her practical way that we could charter a multihull on the lakes and later in the Bahamas for a lot less money. True, but I'm most comfortable having my own boat fitted out the way I want and answering to no one about my choices - spoiled I guess from too many years sailing alone on my own boat, answering to none, master of my fate.

A sailing friend who I was refitting his boat for a voyage at this time half-jokingly said; "What's this James? You send your customers off on slow, rolling old monohulls while you jump on a new racing trimaran!"

While he was joking and at least partly understood my desire to try something different, there are people so focused into their narrowly defined sailing category that anything outside of that, particularly by someone who has long been considered a mentor of their group, well, that's unfathomable and borders on treachery. I still look forward to working on and sailing Atom again. Meanwhile, there is a new horizon to explore.

See the F-27 page for description of upgrades and photos of our first trip.

July 2009

The circumnavigation book project

During my first circumnavigation in Atom I kept a detailed journal of my travels under sail and on foot walking across the islands I visited. Over a period of several years I wrote up the story in the book Across Islands and Oceans. Since I only got as far as a first draft that I knew was still too disorganized to suit a traditional publisher, I put the project on hold while I worked on other things. Since a few people have asked me to release it, this year I made the time to work on a second draft and have begun publishing chapters online. Chapter 9 is now online and my goal is to add one or two chapters a month until it's finished. If there is any demand for a paper version, I may have it on Amazon as a POD (Print On Demand) paperback. If you have any comments or criticisms of the book so far, now's your chance to let me know before the final version goes to print.

Another Triton in my backyard

For the past couple months I've had a local friend's Triton sitting on my trailer next to our workshop/garage in our backyard. The equipment hauler trailer the Triton is sitting on was bought last year and I originally modified it to carry Atom home for a much needed refit. Triton #503 Salty is currently getting her seacocks replaced, the prop aperture filled and faired after the conversion from Atomic Four gas inboard to a 6 HP outboard, new bottom paint and new standing rigging.


Triton Salty loaded on my trailer.


Salty tucked in next to our small workshop.

Salty Prop

With the original inboard engine removed the prop and aperture were unwelcome drag.

Salty Bottom

At this point the prop aperture has been filled in with plywood, fiberglass and epoxy and the bottom is sanded and ready for paint.

June 2009

Georgia coast to Bahamas in a Morris Frances 26

Late last year I was contacted by experienced small boat sailor Doug Bell who just purchased a Morris Frances 26 in Maine. This classic Chuck Paine designed cutter was built by Morris Yachts in 1977. It has a slightly raised central deck that is low enough to give the appearance of a flush deck in profile and had an owner-finished interior. After recent years in storage the boat was in need of extensive refurbishment. Doug planned to upgrade the boat's equipment for offshore voyaging and after some online consulting decided to have the boat trucked here to Brunswick, Georgia where we worked together for three months getting the boat fit for sea.

The low-freeboard canoe transom design with outboard hung rudder and short bowsprit provided numerous challenges to Doug's plan of getting her setup to be a capable and comfortable passage maker. He toyed with the idea of keeping her engineless, but eventually had the yard in Maine install a new lightweight 10 HP two-cylinder Nanni diesel. Not only was an outboard motor on a narrow canoe transom not a good option, it was also difficult to fit a windvane self-steering gear and solar panel and lifelines on a boat without a pushpit and with a tiller that swept an arc across the entire aft end of the boat. We sorted it all out eventually and I sailed with Doug on a four day shakedown passage to Bahamas at the end of May. A magazine I write for has asked for an article about this project so I'll leave the rest of the details for later.

(Update 23 June 2010: Frances 26 Project article)


La Luz fitted out for her passage south.


The Frances La Luz as she was last year in Maine.


Doug aboard La Luz in Bahamas.


We managed to fit a Windpilot windvane, pushpit and solar panel to the narrow canoe transom.

More on the Frances design at:

Doug Bell's Frances La Luz is pictured at the bottom of the page at the following link when she was known as Karma: